Lifeboat coxswain killed in freak accident remembered 30 years on

Niece Mary Spencer, crew member Owen Nutt, coxswain Guy Gibson and Jane Read, Benny Read's daughter.

Niece Mary Spencer, crew member Owen Nutt, coxswain Guy Gibson and Jane Read, Benny Read's daughter. - Credit: Chris Bond

A former lifeboat coxswain was honoured at sea on Saturday, almost 30 years after he was killed in a freak accident during a call out.

Former Caister Lifeboat coxswain Benny Read died on September 1, 1991, when firing a launch maroon to summon the Caister crew to go to the aid of a swimmer in distress.

The alert later turned out to be a false alarm and the 60-year-old died at the scene from multiple injuries.

Caister lifeboat coxswain Benny Read. Picture courtesy Maurice Gray

Caister lifeboat coxswain Benny Read. Picture courtesy Maurice Gray - Credit: Archant

Current coxswain Guy Gibson and his crew launched the lifeboat on Sunday morning and conducted a short service at sea before a wreath was laid in his memory with the help of his daughter Jane Read and niece Mary Spencer.

Prince Charles, who has visited Caister Lifeboat Station on several occasions, including with Mr Read, was among those to send messages of condolence following the accident.

Comedian Jim Davidson with current and former crew members of Caister Lifeboat before the launch of the Bernard Matthews II.

Comedian Jim Davidson with current and former crew members of Caister Lifeboat before the launch of the Bernard Matthews II. - Credit: Chris Bond

Comedian Jim Davidson, a long-time supporter of the independent lifeboat station, witnessed the launch from the shore with a small crowd of onlookers.

He said: "I always remember Benny as the most optimistic man.

Most Read

"He was never down and he was always convinced that everything was going to be good.

"He was the epitome of the lifeboat motto 'Caister men never turn back'."

He added Mr Read had inspired many others to join the crew and become coxswains.

The launch of the Bernard Matthews II to honour former Caister Lifeboat coxswain Benny Read

The launch of the Bernard Matthews II to honour former Caister Lifeboat coxswain Benny Read - Credit: Chris Bond

Mr Read had joined the Caister crew in 1955, following a long family tradition stretching back into the early 18th century.

His father before him had served on the crew for 50 years.

Mr Read's distinguished record as a lifeboat crew member saw him awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal in 1963 for his part in the rescue of fishing trawler Loch Lorgan.

In 1986, he received the RNLI Vellum award for the rescue of eight crew men from an oil supply vessel, the Seaforth Conqueror, with the RNLI highlighting his "great skill and seamanship."

He was one of the leading campaigners in the bid to provide an independent lifeboat for Caister after the RNLI lifeboat was withdrawn in 1969, with Mr Davidson a strong supporter of the bid.

He had been coxswain for 10 years when he died in 1991.

The launch of the Bernard Matthews II to honour former Caister Lifeboat coxswain Benny Read

The launch of the Bernard Matthews II to honour former Caister Lifeboat coxswain Benny Read - Credit: Chris Bond

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter